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August 26, 2014

Show Preview: What to Expect at IMEX America

Carina Bauer

IMEX America is gearing up to open again soon at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas. The show, now in its fourth year, includes professional education, networking and co-located events as well as an online appointment-system for hosted buyers and buyer-attendees to choose which exhibitors they meet with and when. 


The show’s professional education program kicks off with Smart Monday, powered by MPI, on October 13 followed by the three-day trade show, which runs from October 14 – October 16. More than 180 education and professional development sessions are scheduled, as well as a free MPI keynote in the Sands Showroom each day of the conference. 

"It's very good to offer education at all levels," Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, told International Meetings Review, "and not just for senior planners and not just the junior or mid levels." Since the first IMEX show, the team has offered a closed, invitation-only program for the most senior planners--"People who are in charge of global or regional meeting departments in corporations or procurement or a couple departments"--known as the executive meeting forum. This program attracts an estimated 30 "extremely senior people," Bauer said, "but of course it is invitation-only and it is at a very specific level. We wanted to be able to offer something to the senior planner who was maybe at the next level down. We produced more as well as an open program so not quite as strict in terms of the guidelines." 

RELATED: How IMEX 2014 Will Change Upcoming Events

The expanded education program, she continued, seems to be "a natural extension of that relationship." given how they're growing in the market and given what we want to be able to offer to collaborate in that way. We know that they have an active membership who regards them and their education rate highly.

Smart Monday, powered by MPI (Meeting Professionals International), starts the week on October 13. MPI’s education programming will be complemented by sessions from a range of partners including ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, ECM (European Cities Marketing), GBTA (Global Business Travel Association), GMIC (Green Meeting Industry Council, HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International), ICCA (International Congress & Convention Association), ISES (International Special Events Society), PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) and Site (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence). 

In addition, PCMA will bring its Business School to IMEX America for the first time. The session with Dr. Jerry Jellison of the University of Southern California (also on Smart Monday) will be open to both senior level suppliers and buyers. Senior planners will also be able to attend a new track delivered by SPIN (Senior Planners Industry Network) whose members have a minimum of 10 years’ planning experience. This track is open to all attendees and runs throughout the show.

New Tracks

Three new tracks - Diversity, Risk Management/Compliance and Senior Planner Skills - have been added to the roster to bring the number of tracks up to 10.

Diversity, Bauer said, involves a wide range of issues--"everything from cultural skills through to LGBT, which we could see is a growing trend. There’s a need for education based on the buyers' side and also the supplier side." The IMEX team asks registrants to the show why they're attending, she added, and those who express an interest in education can choose their tracks. "So far, that track has been the most the one with the most interest--which surprised us, but which we found very interesting."
Risk management and compliance, meanwhile, is an extension of a program from IMEX Frankfurt that seeks to answer an unanswerable question: "How do you marry up these two competing desires to manage risk and comply with a lot of new rules?...They’re very opposing themes, but often a meeting planner is being tasked with both of them" This is especially vital for sectors under pressure to drive innovation and creativity, Bauer noted. "We’re all looking for creativity and innovation and how to drive that within our businesses or meetings or events--but at the same time, there’s a lot of compliance and new rules that people have to know about. 


Since the first show, Bauer said, IMEX has seen a significant amount of collaboration from industry groups. This also seems poised to grow for the Vegas program: "You have SITE putting on their SITE Young Leaders’ conference just before the show; MPI are extending the education that they’re offering (again) on Smart Monday [and] also offering their new meeting healthcare certification program for the first time at the show...Then, to add a bit of a different spin, we’ve got CEIR, who are doing a golf tournament on the Monday morning before the show."  

IMEX, Bauer continued, is a platform to the industry, "and we are able to bring all the different segments and factions of the industry together--because, essentially, we are a trade show and so we are neutral ground." Through IMEX's collaboration with its partners, the show represents a range of different sectors of the industry, she noted. With a global presence, the show has wide appeal for wide-reaching associations. "[They] want to showcase to the industry at large what it is they do," she said. "It’s a great opportunity for them to do that." With groups like MPI, SITE, GBTA and others hosting or sponsoring as many as three sessions throughout the run of the show, the various associations have a chance to reach several thousand visitors at once--an opportunity they may not have at their own, sometimes smaller, conferences. "That’s the power, I suppose, of having that mutual space for everybody," Bauer noted. 

Exhibitor Update

The expanded show floor will feature at least 50 new booths together with 70+ previous exhibitors who have increased booth space.  Among the new European exhibitors are Austria, the Czech Tourism Authority, Italy and Portugal.  26 technology companies are also confirmed together with at least 12 specialist incentive product companies. Other sections of the show including Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Latin America, airlines and charters and cruise companies, are all set to expand.  

Among the biggest growth areas on the show floor are the hotels and US exhibitors. Seven new hotel groups are confirmed and at least 15 have increased their booth sizes. More than a dozen new US exhibitors also join IMEX America for the first time while 20 previous exhibitors representing a variety of US destinations and suppliers have significantly increased their presence. 

Hosted Buyer Update

Aside from growth in the total number of buyers attending, hosted buyers who are new to the show will enjoy a range of new customer services for 2014. These include a preshow call from the IMEX Concierge team plus the chance to sign up for early morning orientation tours of the show floor and other important locations. 

Co-Located and Networking Events Update

Other highlights include the biennial IMEX Challenge, a hands-on event for industry volunteers to build a new garden for Las Vegas non-profit The Shade Tree shelter for women and children; The Convention Industry Council’s Hall of Leaders Gala; the new CEIR (The Center for Exhibition Industry Research) IMEX America Golf Classic and SITE Nite North America. The show’s networking and social calendar concludes with the MPI Foundation Rendezvous/IMEX America Night on October 15. 

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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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